LOW LILY SATURDAY, MARCH 11TH AT 3 PM AT THE FORT HUNTER CENTENNIAL BARN. ALSO! Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “Petting Zoo”

The string and vocal trio Low Lily, which explores the roots and branches of American folk music with traditional influences and modern inspiration, comes to the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg for a matinee concert at 3 PM on March 11th.

The concert will be preceded by a fun and interactive Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “petting zoo” (both free).

This would be a perfect event to invite those family members, neighbors and co-workers who may not be familiar with folk music! Low Lily members include Liz Simmons on vocals and guitar, Flynn Cohen on vocals, guitar, and mandolin, and Lissa Schneckenburger on vocals and fiddle. They are all masterful musicians and vocalists with deep relationships to traditional music styles ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, New England, and Old Time Appalachian sounds.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a maximum family fee for parents and children under age 23 of $25. Advance tickets are available toll-free at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For info visit www.sfmsfolk.org

This event is made possible with an “Art for All Grant” from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. Additional funding by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

We had a chance to speak to Liz Simmons who spoke to us about the band and their upcoming engagement in Harrisburg.


FOLKMAMA: We’re really looking forward to Low Lily’s appearance in Harrisburg and thrilled that you will be doing this special workshop to introduce “newbies” to folk music (and maybe teach the rest of us a thing or too also!).

LIZ: Yes, we’re excited too! We’ve been kicking around some ideas about the workshop and we’ve settled on a few things. First off I think we’ll talk about the backgrounds of the different members of Low Lily. Each one of us has a different way of how we came to music and there are some good stories there. For example, I started playing music because my dad put a ukulele in my hands when I was 4. Also, my parents are musicians so I was going to gigs from the time I was a baby.

We’ll definitely sing some songs together. We’ll hit on some from different regions in the country so that everyone can get a taste of the wide variety of folk styles there are in the United States. Lissa will do a traditional song from the state of Main where she is from and Flynn has done a lot of work in Appalachian traditional song, so most likely will do a song from that region. And I most likely will try a English or an Irish song so we can hear where a lot of American folk traditions are rooted.

We’ll introduce the instruments that we play and give some background about each. In general we’ll respond to the group that is in front of us, and go in what direction seems to make sense depending on how old or how young our audience is.

FOLKMAMA: And what about the concert? What should people expect to hear?

LIZ: We’ll do some traditional songs—you know songs that are so old that no one knows who wrote them but have been passed from generation to generation. We take these old songs and arrange them in a way that we feel is fresh; that presents the sounds that we like to make musically.

We also write songs, sometimes separately, sometimes together. There will also be some instrumental numbers. Flynn is a wonderful flat picker on the mandolin and guitar and Lissa, of course plays beautiful fiddle. So they’ll get to hear some of that beautiful melody playing. It will be a mix of up-tempo with some slightly slower stuff.

We do a lot of three part harmony, that’s a big feature of what we do, so that’s part of the sound as well. So audiences that like harmonies and choruses will be happy to hear us as well.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed Lissa Schneckenburger for a long time and love her fiddling [Lissa has appeared twice for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, as the Lissa Schneckenburger Trio and as the Lissa Schneckenburger Duo). I’ve heard her style described as “New England Fiddling.” What does that mean?

LIZ: It’s a style that, like all American folk styles is made up of a whole slew of influences. When you think of where New England is—you can kind of guess where the influences come from. You have the Quebec and the Cape Breton influences which of course is French and Scottish, and then you have coming up from the South old-time and Appalachian music influences filtering in. Then you have the Irish and the Scottish through the Boston channel. You might even hear a touch of bluegrass because Bluegrass is big in Boston area.

FOLKMAMA: Do you have CDs that you are planning to sell?

LIZ: Since it’s our first time in Harrisburg, our 2015 CD will be a new recording to audiences there. It’s our only Low Lily title so far, but are working on the next one. Before we were Low Lily, we had a previous incarnation and were known as Annalivia. This was before Lissa joined. We have a title that we sell from that era as well as solo albums.

FOLKMAMA: Have you been to any interesting venues lately?

LIZ: We just did a tour out to Folk Alliance International–which I always explain to people is a trade show for folk musicians. So we turned that into a Midwest tour. We did five cities on the way out, which was really fun.

We hit Rochester, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Fairfield, Iowa, and Columbia, Missouri. We did many of the Northeast’s folk festivals last summer, which of course is such a rich place for New England and American folk music. And we often run into a lot of pals too, and get a chance to listen to and hear new music. So even though it’s a gig, it’s still a lot of fun.

And this summer we’re traveling a little further afield and will do a tour in England and in California in the fall. So lots of great traveling coming up!


Susan Werner performs October 7th in York, PA for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society

Photos by Robert Yahn

Dubbed by National Public Radio as the “Empress of the Unexpected,” singer/songwriter Susan Werner will play homage to the American farmer, singing songs about farming (along with her other contagiously clever repertoire) when she performs at 8 PM on Friday, October 7th at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York.

Complementsusan-werner-1-bob-yahning this agriculture-themed concert will be a Farmer’s Panel to be held at 7 PM. The church is located at 925 S. George Street in York.

The groups participating in the Farmer’s Panel include Sonnewald Natural Foods, the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, Sunnyside Farms, and York Fresh Food Farms. Displays and literature will be available. The Farmer’s Panel is free.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22.  Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838–3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at www.sfmsfolk.org.


During the concert Werner will keep her audiences guessing and laughing simultaneously, lending her wry humor and passionate voice to subjects such as farmer’s markets, agrochemicals, climate change, drought, longing for a sense of place, and the movement towards sustainable agriculture. The characters in her songs are varied and colorful and the lyrics are sharp as thistles. With this new selection of songs Werner continues her reign as one of the most bold and creative forces on the acoustic music scene

“A concert is like going on a date,” singer/songwriter Susan Werner told Daniel Gewertz of the Boston Herald. “You want to be honest about who you are. You can’t just show up in a chiffon dress and expect a limousine to show up. You have to introduce yourself to an audience, take them by the hand.” A concert date with the always feisty and perceptive Susan Werner is an eventful ride, with stops in folk, pop-rock, and classic jazz styles. Since making a name for herself in the crowded folk scene of the early 1990s, Werner has kept audiences guessing with new ideas and approaches.

Born around 1965 in Manchester, Iowa, Werner grew up on her family’s hog farm. But she took to singing rather than farming. When she was three, she grabbed attention at a family party with her rendition of a beer commercial jingle. “That was it. My life direction was fixed,” Werner told Paul McKay of the Ottawa Citizen.

Werner has recorded numerous CDs including Hayseed which she dedicated to “my father and mother, and their fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers… farmers, all.”

This concert is presented in cooperation with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York. Funding for this Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert is provided by Donna and Robert Pullo and the Puffin Foundation. Additional funding comes from the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. ________________________________________susan-werner-2-bob-yahn

To learn more about Susan Werner, read the following excerpt for the Riffs Magazine interview conducted in 2013 by Joe Montague. To read the full interview, click here: http://www.rivetingriffs.com/Susan%20Werner.html


When singer-songwriter-musician Susan Werner puts on her advocacy hat for farmers, talks about reeducating farmers and about more organic ways of doing things she does so with a great deal of credibility. Susan Werner grew up on a farm in Iowa and her family has been farmers for several generations. When she sings “herbicides done made me gay,” she takes a playful poke at the ultra-conservative element in farming who are homophobic. Werner who is gay felt this was an effective way to get those farmers to reconsider their position on continuing the use herbicides. All of which leads us to Susan Werner’s new Folk album Hayseed on which the song “Herbicides,” appears.

This interview is protected by copyright © by Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved.


Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret & Bruce Campbell perform for SFMS May 18th in Harrisburg

Central Pennsylvania is home to many fine musicians, and four of the best—Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret, and Bruce Campbell—appear for their unprecedented fifth Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Brewing Co. Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. The four have drawn such acclaim in their four earlier concerts that the decision was made to bring them back again for 2014.

Concert tickets are $18 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students to age 22. (Note: Appalachian Brewing Company requires guests to be age 21 and over for evening shows.) Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. Funding for Susquehanna Folk Music Society concerts is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. This concert is presented in cooperation with Greenbelt Events­. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org


Following is a reprinted, but updated, interview done in 2012:

Folkmama: So Kevin, from your posts on Facebook it seems like you’ve been really busy. What have been some of the highlights in your musical life since you played for Susquehanna Folk last time?

Neidig: This past year has been wonderful musically.  I have been teaching various instruments and voice in private lessons, classes and workshops at the Perfect 5th Music and Arts Center.  I bought my first ever classical guitar, which I love.  I play a lot of classical guitar when I am home by myself but I haven’t taken that part of myself to the stage.  In some ways I feel like that music is just for me.  Actually most of the music I practice and play at home never reaches the stage.  It’s a funny thing.  Maybe I am selfish with that part of me or maybe I just haven’t found the right avenue to express that side of myself yet. I am not really sure.  I have also fallen in love with gypsy jazz and have been listening to it almost exclusively all this year.  I have always liked the style but maybe a certain gene switch on from a solar flare or something and it’s made me obsessed with this music.  You’re definitely going to hear me and the boys play some of this music at the show on Sunday!

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? How has your year been?

Koretzky: Probably the most interesting thing has been the Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble. A fellow named Tom Cook who is a lawyer and a mandolin enthusiast got the idea to put together a Harrisburg equivalent of a mandolin orchestra. Mandolin orchestras were a popular tradition in the early part of the 20th century. Every town would have them. There are still a few around; they have been making a comeback.  But they tend to be large groups with dozens of people so what has evolved with our group is a six piece band. We’ve got mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and even a mandobass. This has been interesting because even though it’s an old tradition the fact that it’s a six piece we have to arrange and choose all our own stuff so we’re doing some original tunes and we’re doing almost all original arrangements of tunes.

Folkmama:  Bruce, I know that you’ve always been pretty busy with a multitude of bands. Any particular highlights, or has the recession really cut into your gig schedule?

Campbell: Recession?  What recession?  As a hired gun, I’m open and willing to commit to any gig with any band, provided that A. it’s challenging, B. it’s fun, and C. It pays enough to cover expenses.The Rue de la Pompe gypsy swing band that I’m doing with Ken continued to be busy throughout 2013, as well as Ruby and the Hummingbirds, the Isaak Trio and other jazz piano trios I get called for. The Vintage Jazz Dixieland band stays steady and I’ve picked up some big band work as well.I work with Kevin occasionally and was proud to add the bass parts to his latest recording.Contra Dances keep popping up on my schedule both with the Contra Rebels, as well as Henry’s group, Unbowed.As a backup bassist, I fill in any holes in my schedule taking work from Vinegar Creek Constituency, Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble, Barbone Street Jazz, The Launies, Rampart St. Ramblers, and Dixieland Express.

Folkmama: Ken, I know that you identify yourself more with the Reading, PA area so our readers may not be as familiar with your various project. What kinds of things have you been up to musically?

Gehret: I’ve been playing a lot of different styles of music; jazz and Brazilian music, Irish, and some classical too. I do some different band situations and I do some solo performances too. I have a band called Irish Mist and I’m in a band with Bruce Campbell and others called Rue de la Pompe which is Parisian swing—Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli . And of course Irish Mist does Celtic music, traditional, but some originals. The Brazilians do Brazilian music—a lot of Jobim, Bonfá—that sort of thing and some original material also. And I have the Violin Quartet–it’s a jazz group, but instead of having a tenor sax I play the violin. We play modern jazz—Coltrane, Miles Davis—that sort of thing.

Folkmama: Henry, you’re really responsible for putting this Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret, Campbell composition together. You selected guys that are all so good individually, but have terrific chemistry on stage together. How has this worked for you?

Koretzky:   I’ve always enjoys putting different groups together and seeing how they interact.  All the time that I’ve been playing, that’s always been a fun thing to do. I play with a lot of different ensembles and a lot of different styles and I’m always thinking, “Mmmm…I wonder how these two people would get along. I wonder how they would interact.”  The opportunity that this concert presents gives me the chance to do this on a more public stage.  It’s been great, for example,  to get Ken and Kevin together to bounce ideas off of each other and support each other’s ideas. It’s always fun for me to do this and in this case I’m doing it in a concert situation with a great listening room atmosphere so that the audience can be part of the experience as well.

Folkmama: Bruce, you play with some of these guys in different bands already. What has it been like playing together as a foursome?

Campbell: It’s fun to think that I play regularly with Ken in the gypsy band and sometimes bluegrass bands, I play with Henry in contra dance bands like the Contra Rebels, and I play with Kevin Neidig usually in concert situations where I play his original tunes. Now we’re all getting together and we are all going to play what we want to play or what we want to feature. It’s a completely different repertoire for the most part than anything I play with these guys on an individual basis. It’s a completely different band made up of people that I routinely play with using a completely different repertoire.

Folkmama: What about you Ken?

Gehret: Playing with this composition of musicians is a lot of fun; it’s certainly the right chemistry. We all hook up very well musically and personally.

Folkmama:  Anything to add Kevin?

Neidig: Henry, Ken and Bruce are just the real deal. They are just fine acoustic musicians that are always trying to hone their craft. They are really the cream of the crop and to get to play with them is just really awesome. It’s very exciting.

Folkmama: So you’ve played this gig for the Folk Music Society two years in a row already, and you’ve been invited back for a third concert. Do you have any special memories of past concerts that you’d like to share?

Neidig: I think I was just so surprised by the attendance and that got us so energized. I talked about this with the group afterwards. You know we are not even a real band, we’re just a bunch of guys who get together to put on a show and we’ve got this packed house. That is just so cool!

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? What has it been like preparing for shows with this group?

Koretzky: I think it’s interesting how every musician prepares for it in a different way. Kevin, for instance is ultra-organized and he will do very precise demos of his original tunes and post them on a private website that we have access to so that we have a choice to work every chord off those tunes individually.

It might surprise audiences to know how fresh the material is, that we don’t have much of a chance to play together, all four of us, before we hit the stage. It’s actually been part of the energy that has gone there. We prepare the stuff, we know exactly what we are going to do, material wise, and we’ve all had a chance to rehearse individually and in small groups. When we played last year we had one four-piece rehearsal the week before. So we knew where the edges of the tunes were, we knew what work we had to do individually, but when we got on stage everything was extremely fresh and exciting. That was part of the excitement of what we were able to deliver up there.

Folkmama: What’s the experience of preparing for these gigs been like for you Bruce?

Campbell: The pattern starts with Henry being the driving force and the disciplinarian.  As of last week said, “Come on boys! Crack the whip. Crack, crack. Snap, snap. We need to get together; we need to make some decisions. We need to decide what our set list is. We need to have MP3s and demos flying around between us so that we can all individually learn this stuff so that when we get together we can launch from there.” So Henry is the driving force. If it wasn’t for Henry nothing would be happening until like two days before the concert and then there would be this panic.

As far as the concert itself, just from me doing sound all those years and me playing there the last couple of years it’s just a wonderful audience and a wonderful venue. Everyone hangs on every word and every lyric and every note. They are attentive and they are sober and they’re appreciative and it’s just a wonderful gig.

Folkmama: And when the band hits the stage, what has been your experience Ken?

Gehret: Well, I was so taken by the warmth of the audience. It has been so wonderful to play for Susquehanna Folk audiences—they are just so into the music. They really made us feel at home.

Folkmama: What’s in store for audiences at the upcoming February 25th concert?

Neidig: For this next concert we’re going to really try to outdo ourselves and get some really cool songs that we normally wouldn’t play because we have these fabulous musicians that can really handle it.  It’s like, “Let’s do a Paul Simon song but do it in a bluegrass format.” I think it’s really going to be a great, interesting show.

Interview by Jess Hayden, Executive Director of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, January 2012. (updated 2014)


Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret and Campbell

Guitar Wizard Jim Hurst to appear in Harrisburg November 2nd

Two-time International Bluegrass Music Association “Guitarist of the Year” award winner Jim Hurst brings his impeccable, intricate guitar stylings to Harrisburg for a Saturday, November 2, 2013, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Information and tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/436429

I caught up with guitar wizard Jim Hurst recently and had a chat with him about his guitar technique, his new CD and the decision to embark on a solo career.

JimHurst_snMcGuire_print4C (2)

Folk Mama: I’ve e really not paid enough attention to what a guitarist does with their right hand.  I noticed in your bio that you use a combination of finger picks and a flat pick. I’m curious how you decide which picking style to use.

Hurst: Well I try to incorporate the techniques with my right hand that give me value behind the song–the lyrics, and the melodies. Essentially, I pay attention to the grove or the gentile nature of the song. There are times in my shows where I do a medley of sorts where I flatpick and sometimes where I finger style. And when I do flatpick I go through all the heroes like Toney Rice, Doc Watson, Clarence White or Mother Maybelle Carter. On the fingerstyle side it’s mostly Merle Travis, Chet Akins, Jerry Reid and folks like that. So I do a combination of different things. And sometimes I go natural so there are no picks anywhere. I use the technique that best enhances the song.

Folk Mama: I understand that you do a lot of teaching and have taught guitar at several camps. Where have you taught and what kinds of classes do you usually teach?

Hurst: I’ve gotten to teach at a lot of camps. This year for the first time I taught at Swannanoa Gathering out in North Carolina. I’ve taught at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop out near Seattle, Washington and different camps teaching bluegrass style. I’ve been a guitar instructor for flat picking as well as fingerstyle. I’ve been a vocal instructor for bluegrass harmony vocals and I’ve also done some band coaching.

Folk Mama: So I see that you have played with Claire Lynch and with Missy Raines. Can you give us a little background?

Hurst: I’ve worked mostly with women in my career. My first job since I moved to Nashville was with Holly Dunn and I also worked with Trisha Yearwood and Sara Evans. I worked for Claire Lynch for 15 years as part of two of her bands—the Front Porch String Band with her husband and then later with the Claire Lynch Band. Missy Raines joined the band in May of 1995 and Missy and I played together in Claire’s band. After the Front Porch String Band split up  and before we started in the Claire Lynch Band, Missy and I started playing as a duet, which we continued doing for quite a few years.

Folk Mama: So now you are working solo. How did that come about?

Hurst: Well the solo thing is probably not the first thing that people in the bluegrass community would expect. I’ve always been a music lover and bluegrass is one of my loves but I grew up near Detroit, so Motown, rock and roll, the Beatles and Elvis—all these people were influences on me too.

Being in ensembles—especially as a hired sideman– you are doing the reckoning and the artwork of someone else’s desires and creation. Then as time goes on the musician inside of you, the creative person inside is never, truly fulfilled. So for me I was working in all these great bands, but the kind of thing that I wanted to do didn’t fit the environments that I was in. So in 2009 I felt the need to challenge myself to do my own kind of music, at the ripe young age of 56. And I feel like a young upstart because no one knows who I am for the most part because I’ve always been part of a group.

So it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to kind of develop the art that I hear. My most recent CD “Intrepid” came on February of last year and it’s gotten a lot of support with on independent, internet and satellite radio. Last year at IBMAs [International Bluegrass Music Association] bluegrass convention in Nashville I think I was the first solo act to ever get an official showcase.

I was also nominated again for the “Guitar Play of the Year” Award, which was the first time that I was selected as a finalist since doing the solo thing. And that’s not an easy thing, because the bluegrass community loves a bluegrass band with a banjo and a fiddle and a mandolin, and for me to get nominated with just my guitar and a voice and be recognized by my bluegrass peers is a huge thing for me.

Folkmama: I’m curious about the title of your new CD “Intrepid”.  It doesn’t take its name from any of the songs on the CD. Does the title refer to the leap of faith that you’ve had to make going solo?

Hurst: I like to title my albums so that the name conveys something about the album.  “Open Window” my first CD from 1998 was a look into the music of who I am, and then “Second Son” because I am the second of three brothers, and “Box of Chocolates” had a lot of variety in it, and I’m a big chocolate fan.

I looked around to try to find a good title for this and I came up with the idea of “Intrepid” and I asked some friends and they thought it was perfect because it takes a lot of courage, especially in the bluegrass community to go off on your own because you are taking a chance on hurting yourself financially and creatively and maybe going places where people don’t expect you to go.

Folkmama:  Anything I missed?

Hurst: There is a lot of music that I do that is bluegrass friendly, but when I do it solo, it’s more like a songer-songwriter version. I also choose my set list based on who I think is in the audience.

I think there are some “bluegrassers” who don’t want to hear folk, and some “folkers” who don’t want to hear bluegrass, but I think I’m bridging the gap.

I would encourage anyone who has never seen me live to come and hear my music and to come out and support the Susquehanna Folk Music Society series. It’s a wonderful series and I really appreciate being part of it!

An Interview with modern day troubadours James Keelaghan and Jez Lowe, appearing in concert October 6th, 2013, Harrisburg, PA

James Keelaghan, hailed as Canada’s finest singer-songwriter and “poet laureate of the folk and roots music world,” and England’s Jez Lowe, one of the busiest performers on the acoustic/folk scene, join forces for a special evening of music in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, October 6, at 7:30 p.m., at the Midtown Scholar, 1302 N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $21 General Admission, $17 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

Called Canada’s finest singer-songwriter, James Keelaghan takes traditional folk music and brings it into the current century, telling stories that are designed to be passed from one generation to the next, just as folk songs have been carried on for centuries. His masterful story-telling has been part of the bedrock of his success, earning him a Juno (Canada’s Grammy), first prize in the Folk Category of the 8th Annual USA Songwriting Competition, and accolades from Australia to Scandinavia. He uses his background in history to write songs about social issues, such as his well-known songs Kiri’s Piano, about the internment of Japanese Canadians, and Cold Missouri Waters, about the Mann Gulch fire of 1949. My Blood, written with Jez Lowe, is one of many examples from Keelaghan’s career of his inviting collaboration into his creative process.

Accompanying himself on guitar, cittern, mandolin and harmonica, Jez Lowe has brought his “pointed, poignant and powerful” songs of life in his native northeast England to audiences worldwide. Raised in a coal mining family with Irish roots, he composes songs of social impact that directly address economic conditions, and issues of poverty and limited social opportunity in that region. Performing solo and with the Bad Pennies, he has played at some of the most prestigious venues in the world. Jez’s songs have also found their own way around the globe all on their own, borne by performers including Cherish the Ladies, the Tannahill Weavers, the Black Family, Fairport Convention, The Clancy’s, The Dubliners and literally hundreds more. BBC Radio 2 has called him “one of our finest songwriters,” echoing his 2008 nomination for “Folksinger of the Year” in the BBC Folk awards.

This interview was conducted and edited for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society by Lesley Ham. She caught up with them as they embarked on their road trip from Canada to the United States.

SFMS: How did you get together and start playing and touring together?

James: We were aware of each other from the folk scene in general and we shared stages at various folk festivals in various parts of the world. In Australia one year we did a couple of shows together at the National Folk Festival. It was a pretty good sound, so I thought maybe we should pursue this thing, because we write in very similar styles and about a lot of similar things. So at that National Folk Festival in Australia, we started working up common material. Then we toured together in the United States, Canada and the U.K.

SFMS: You’re both known for writing about historical and social issues. How do you collaborate with each other? Do you play on each other’s songs, or write songs together?

James: We have done some writing together; we’re trying to do more writing together. We also play together; we’re both on stage together for the whole time. We sing harmonies on each other’s songs and participate in each other’s music.

SFMS: Are you both from similar backgrounds?

James: We both tend to write about “every person,” about ordinary people and their lives. I think we have similar appreciation for what we write about.

SFMS: Some people have likened that to a kind of folklore. Do you think of yourself as a kind of folklorist or tradition bearer?

James: I think of myself as a troubadour. Once I was in a café in Turkey with a friend and a guy was in a corner doing a song, a kind of recitation, with all the men listening to him. I asked my friend what song he was singing. And it was the Odyssey. It was his job to sit there and recite the entirety of the Odyssey. In that way, Jez and I are bearers of stories. I’ve always thought that the best compliment of one of my songs would be that a couple hundred years from now someone gets up in a folk club somewhere and sings one of my songs and says, “This is a traditional folk song, we don’t know who wrote it.” That means that what I’ve done is created a song that’s good enough that I can completely disappear from it and the song stands on its own and has a life of its own.

Jez: I agree. One of my songs has already been absorbed into the British tradition. It’s quite a compliment.

SFMS: What’s it like collaborating with James?

Jez: It’s remarkable how similar our approach is. The music sounds quite different, but it’s amazing how alike our approach and our background is, and our standards and ideals. It’s amazing since we come from opposite sides of the world. A common heritage.

SFMS: James, because of your song Cold Missouri Waters were you paying attention to the fires in Colorado and Arizona recently?

James: Yes, my song got attached to the news coverage of that event. People on Facebook started spreading it around on the memorials to the firefighters that were killed in Arizona. And then I ended up on the front page of USA Today. It was humbling, to think of that song being used to memorialize those guys. That’s what Jez and I are talking about. It’s all about the power of the song. It’s all about touching people through music and telling stories that reflect people’s lives. If we wrote about princes and kings I don’t think people would care. If we write about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, I think people can relate to that. You write these things and put them out into the world and you never exactly know how they are going to affect people. One of my songs, McConville’s [about how pubmates help out the family of their dead friend] suddenly has become the story-song that everyone is talking about.

SFMS: So, you pick stories that affect you?

James: It has to touch me first; if I don’t care anything about the story, I can’t write about it. I’m sure it’s the same with Jez. (Jez: Yes!)

SMFS: What’s your writing process? Do you start with the story?

James: I hear a story, and then I mull it over for a long time until I find a point of view that I can tell the story from that resonates. To me, telling a story is all about the point of view. So do you agree with that, Mr. Lowe?

Jez: Yes, that’s one approach that I take. I also enjoy making up stories and characters to reflect a real situation, like a novel, like fiction.

SFMS: What can we expect Sunday?

James: You’ll be treated to an evening of extremely fine song, and witty, and entertaining guys (Jez: and handsome!), and a great story.

SFMS: Drive safely.

James:  I’m writing a story about the crash right now!252629-250

An Interview with GARNET ROGERS Who Will Perform in Harrisburg, PA, APRIL 13!


Editor’s Note:

***This interview was conducted in October, 2010 and has been adapted to include information on Garnet Roger’s upcoming performance at the Fort Hunter Barn, Harrisburg, PA at 7:30, Saturday, April 13. Additional information at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/GarnetRogers_2013.html ***

Garnet Rogers is a Canadian songwriter who has performed throughout the world for the past 35 years. From 1973-1983 he was an accompanist for his brother Stan Rogers, perhaps one of the most influential songwriters that Canada has ever produced. Since his brother’s death, Garnet has become a phenomenal songwriter in his own right and has continued on as a solo performer.

FOLKMAMA: Good morning Garnet and thanks for speaking to me.

 GARNET: Good morning. I’m just sitting here watching the snow. First snow of the year. It’s not massive snow, just flurries.

FOLKMAMA: You live on a farm, right?

GARNET: Yeah. It’s a small farm, 20 acres. We have horses. We have little breeding operation here. We have a thoroughbred stallion. And we own a few rescue mares. It’s kind of winding down, though. At one point we had 22 horses and at two other farms that we were renting. That was ten years ago, but we’re down to just a handful of horses now. It’s much easier on the back.

FOLKMAMA: I’m a presenter for Susquehanna Folk where you are going to be playing on April 13th. Two years ago you performed an opening set for a Susquehanna Folk Greg Brown concert opening for Greg Brown.

GARNET: Yeah. I had made an inquiry as I was sort of down in that area. I knew that Greg was playing there and I just love him to bits. We don’t get a chance to see each other very much. I think that I did a show for you guys 7 or 8 years ago at the Fort Hunter Barn. You guys do such a good job. It was a beautiful room and I just had a great time. I just have this really nice memory of a very warm evening. It was a beautiful landscape around the barn. It was one of those nights when you think “You know, this is not a bad way to make a living.”

FOLKMAMA: Well, thank you. We love presenting there; it has a lot of warmth. But I think that you have done another concert for Susquehanna Folk too touring with Archie Fisher

GARNET: I remember doing one with Archie Fisher a million year ago.

FOLKMAMA: You put a CD out with Archie, right?

GARNET: We did a couple.

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell me what people should expect at your concert?

GARNET: Well, I never quite know what I’m going to play until I have the guitar in my hand. My songs tend to be fairly serious. The stuff between the songs tend to be not. I sort of have this—I don’t know if you call it “bi-polar” approach to doing shows where the songs all tend to be of a fairly series nature and between them I’m just basically making fun of myself and whatever I see around me. So, it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed to be laughing. They generally do. I’m not doing stand-up comedy or anything; it’s just “observational weirdness”.

 FOLKMAMA: And since you are a guitar collector, I’m wondering which guitars you will have with you.

GARNET: I’ll probably just have a couple of guitars with me. Last night I did a show locally and I had more. I generally have anywhere between 7 and a dozen guitars with me. They are all tuned differently and they all have different sounds and personalities, different problems that I have to adjust to. That’s really part of my thing; I go around with a museum collection of old  guitars. My wife and I have two houses. One of the houses is just full of guitars. That’s my workhouse. I got a guitar in last week and another one that I’m hoping to pick up in Ithaca on my way to Harrisburg. It’s just a constant quest for new sound.

FOLKMAMA: Are you trying out new luthiers too, or is it mostly antique stuff?

GARNET: It’s mostly antiques. Anything made before 1944. After  that it has to be a pretty spectacular instrument or something really special for me to truly lust after it. There is a period between 1942 and 1944 that I particularly like guitars from the Gibson guitar factory where the guitars were mostly made by women because of the war thing. There is something really special about those guitars. They were just made really beautifully. I think that women tend to focus better on details. There were a handful of old guys who were teaching them, they were too old and frail to do war work, so these women learned from the masters. That’s sort of the period that I like the best. But, I have guitars that go all the way back to 1890. It’s partly conservationas well. If I find something that needs a home, to be brought back to life—it’s sort of the guitar version of the horse rescue that we do. It’s like finding some broodmare that shivering in a field and you say “damn”, and you take her home and you put a blanket on her and she spends the rest of her life in a friendly place. It’s kind of an impulse to sort of preserve things.

FOLKMAMA: I read an article that said that you had 9 solo CDs, but you probably have more by now. Do you know what number you are up to?

GARNET: 12 or 13 I think—but another dozen with other people.

FOLKMAMA: Do you have your own label?

GARNET: I’ve always had my own label since 1976. Snow Goose.

FOLKMAMA: You recorded one on Red House Records though. How did that come about?

GARNET: Well Bob Feldman, rest his soul, he just always said to me, “I think you are a Red House artist”. You know, even as good and fair as Red House is, it’s the best of all the independents, it just financially didn’t make sense for me to have to buy back my own music from my record company. So they just said if I wanted to do a record that I could do a compilation and I could have whatever I wanted on it from the first 9 albums. So that’s what they did. The put together a nice compilation and they did a lovely job on it, but I didn’t really have any input on it. It was nice. It got the name around a little more. [Editor’s note: All That Is: The Songs of Garnet Rogers] But that’s as far as it went. I really strongly believe in keeping control of my own deal. Once you give the record company the right, you give them the right to have input. I’m not really big on that.

FOLKMAMA: Your newest CD “Get a Witness” features quite a few songsthat showcases other songwriters. Is that unusual for you?

GARNET: It’s just a little bit different as I wanted to record some songs that I had in the repertoire. There was a Karen Savoca song that I really, really wanted to do. There was a Bruce Springsteen song which dovetailed nicely with the last two songs on the CD, one of which is mine, the other one of my brother’s. [Editor’s note: Stan Rogers] That ended up being a whole half hour piece. Those three songs plus an instrumental break in the middle. They were all performed live with no editing. It’s as it was performed. I’m so proud of it and the way that the band performed. It’s an extraordinary band. At one point there are 8 people on stage and they are just really giving it hell.

FOLKMAMA: Is this your own band?

Garnet: It was actually the core of another band and then some people that I played with for a couple of years including David Woodhead [Editor’s note: bass player who recently played in a SFMS concert with James Keelaghan] who I have been playing with since 1975. He has been on about every folk album in Canada for 35 years.

FOLKMAMA This CD seems to be a little more electric then some of your others.

GARNET: The whole CD is not that way but the first one in particular is really a kind of mean spirited slap at your X-president, George W. And that kind of just needed a very loud and aggressive treatment. There is also a gospel number dedicated to Coretta Scott King that needed a full, what I was imagining to be a gospel treatment. So that got pretty big. And the last half an hour gets pretty big, but the rest of it is quiet and a little more folky. But for your show on November 12th, I’ll just be a guy with his guitar.

Darrell Scott with Supporting Act Voxology Opens Susquehanna Folk’s Season

By John Hope

Darrell Scott, who has collaborated with stars such as Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle and has won several awards for his songwriting, brings a concert of his dynamic original songs to Harrisburg on Saturday, September 30 at the Fort Hunter Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. Opening for Scott in this program sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society will be the hit local duo Voxology. The concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Born in London, Kentucky, son of musician Wayne Scott, with whom he has also worked, Darrell Scott has developed a loyal fan base for his songs which capture the voice of working people and the people of the land. His songs have been recorded by over 70 artists including Garth Brooks, Sam Bush, Keb Mo, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, and Patty Loveless. The Dixie Chicks’ version of his song “Long Time Gone” was nominated for a Grammy in 2003.

Scott has lived in Nashville since about 1995 and has established himself as one of the area’s leading session musicians. He also has written a number of mainstream country hits. Explaining his love for the music, he says he comes from a long line of Scots and Irish immigrants who brought their music with them. “My people came from Kentucky,” he says, “poor tobacco farmers of the first half of the 20th Century and Harlan County coal miners for decades ahead of that. From silver-haired daddy to momma’s hungry eyes, I was baptized in country music.”

In January 2011, his album A Crooked Road won the award for the Country Album category from The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards. In early 2005, his Theatre Of The Unheard won in the 4th Annual Independent Music Awards for Album of the Year. He won the 2007 Song of the Year award from the Americana Music Association for his song “Hank Williams’ Ghost,” which appears on his 2006 album The Invisible Man.

In 2010, Brad Paisley’s cover of Scott’s song “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was the closing song played on the TV drama Justified during the final scene of the final episode of the first season. It was used again in the final episode of the second season.

Scott says that his latest album, Long Ride Home, is a country music tribute with 16 songs that go back as far as 30 years. “It is country music how I remember it, with some of the players that made the very music that was both lifting and breaking my heart as a kid,” he says. “What I find is the country music industry has changed, but country and working people have not changed so much. They still love country music when they hear it. I hope they get to hear this—a long ride home.”

Opening the concert will be local favorite Voxology, featuring the honeyed singing of Les Vonderlin and the guitar wizardry of Kevin Neidig. Their bluegrass-tinged repertoire bursts with award-winning songwriting and exquisite harmonies.

The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a dish to share; place settings and beverages will be provided. Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. This concert is supported, in part, through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

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